Mobile Medication Program for Mentally Ill Wins Trust's First-Ever National Rural Health Award

Rural Health Award winners

A mobile medication program designed to reduce hospitalization costs for seriously mentally ill individuals in rural Pennsylvania won the first-ever national Innovations in Rural Health Award today at an event at Campbell University. The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, one of North Carolina’s largest private philanthropies, launched the Rural Health Award to recognize innovative rural health work from around the country and plans to explore possibilities for implementing the winning project in the state in the coming year.

“Pennsylvania’s mobile medication program reflects an aggressive response to a systemic mental health problem and exemplifies the type of solutions the Trust is looking for to improve the health of rural North Carolinians,” said Allen Smart, director of the Health Care Division at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “All through North Carolina, people and their communities are facing similar urgent challenges, and we think we can learn from Pennsylvania’s experience moving forward.”

Launched by Human Services Center, a community-based mental health and substance abuse provider in northwestern Pennsylvania, the six-step, skill-building program begins with an in-person visit to the patient for every dose of medication ordered, followed by a daily visit, and finally scaling down to a weekly phone call before patients are discharged from the program. Mental health workers travel by van to their clients’ homes and have a broadband-enabled laptop that allows them to enter data on each client remotely. In its first year, the program helped reduce hospitalization costs in the area by more than $1.3 million.

At the Rural Health Award event, four finalists from around the country presented their innovative ideas about how to tackle entrenched health issues in rural areas to a crowd of more than 100 stakeholders from North Carolina’s health care community. Chosen from nearly 200 submissions from around the U.S., the finalists’ projects included the mobile medication program; a community-wide approach to substance abuse in Dare County, North Carolina; mindful listening curriculum to improve student behavior in rural Louisiana; and a breast health awareness program for Latinas in North Central Florida. The winning organization received a $25,000 prize, and the remaining three finalists each received $7,500 from the Trust for their outstanding work.

Rural Health Award entries were judged on five criteria: 1) ability to address long-standing issues of prevention or treatment, 2) transferability to rural and economically distressed regions of North Carolina, 3) consistent with high-impact work in other rural places, 4) potential for impact within three to five years, and 5) signs of success. A National Review Committee scored the entries and assisted Trust staff in narrowing down the pool to the four finalists honored at Campbell University today.

After the Rural Health Award event, guests were invited to tour Campbell University’s new Osteopathic Medical School and network with the finalists and Review Committee members to learn more about their exciting work.

Through its long-time commitment to rural North Carolina and its recent $100 million Healthy Places initiative focused on improving the long-term health of 10 to 15 rural, Tier 1 counties, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is leading the way—statewide and nationally—as a thoughtful, strategic funder of rural health work. With the Rural Health Award, the Trust decided to step outside of North Carolina to seek innovative ideas and bring those solutions back to North Carolina’s rural communities. The Trust plans to continue the Innovations in Rural Health Award in 2014.

Pictured from left to right: Trust President Karen McNeil-Miller and Health Care Division Director Allen Smart, Human Service Center Director of Clinical Services Michele Kelly-Thompson and Mobile Medication Nurse Coordinator Joni Cook